CONCLUSIONS: PART 11
“These Influences Have Shaped My Life”
Below are some of the people, books, or events that have influenced me and my life the most.
BRENNAN MANNING, RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL, AND THINGS RAGAMUFFIN
The writings and teaching of Brennan Manning have been a slow IV drip when my reliance and trust in Abba’s love have dehydrated. They have also been shock paddles to my heart in emergency moments when I am flat lining under the weight of shame, temptation, and failure.
I first heard the word ‘ragamuffin’ in 1999 in Brennan’s book The Ragamuffin Gospel. It ravished my aching heart. I came to understand God’s grace and furious love in a way I had never taken hold of in my life.
The ragamuffin is one with a singular prayer: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Brennan explains further in All is Grace: “any additional flourishes to make that cry more palatable are pharisaical leaven.”
The ragamuffin is one who understands that he, along with every other person, is a beggar at the door of God’s mercy. She is the one who is bedraggled and beat up in life and faith, but have learned to take the hand out of grace without regret or allowing shame to hold them back.
This is why you will find ragamuffinpc to be more than an URL for my website, but it is an identity of which I am learning daily to take hold.
Ron was “grandpa” to me for many years of my growing up. The story of being grandpa is one which has come and gone, but his influence on my life is one that will not as easily go away. He has had, arguably, the strongest impact on my faith development.
He is the first one to strike within me a spark for intimacy with the heart of God. It is in this relationship with Ron where I learned to crave a closeness to God as my greatest good. All the disciplines and acts and movements are just that…movements. The most important thing is to pursue an intimate love affair with Jesus.
Ron was the one to introduce journaling and writing as a great love in my life that will always remain. He was the first to challenge me to write my prayers out, and that changed the way I pray and relate to God forever. It also introduced to me a love for writing.
He is the one who was the earliest spark to my love for reading. I started reading great books when I was very young, before I really even understood what I was reading. For my birthdays and other events, he would give me first edition books that he owned with words written to me. These are still some of my greatest protected treasures.
He taught me to catch a football and cheer loudly for the team I love.
He is the one who had “the talk” with me when my single mom was like, “Nope!”
Ron was the one who taught me to look for God every day, because it is too easy to come to the end of a day having completely missed him. Look for God-moments!
He also taught me that some of the best of catches you make have to one day be released.
THE COLOR GREEN
For several of the years of college, I was part of a rag-tag group of guys called The Color Green. We were an improv comedy and drama team, and you could barely call us that. Two summers, I was able to tour a significant part of the country with these men in a 16-passenger van. They became brothers who are some of the closest friends I have ever had.
Yes, I will always remember the inside jokes that remain over and over and over for eternity. I will remember crazy experiences on stage and off that solidify a brotherhood like this. But I think my fondest memory of David, Shawn, Justin, Kyle, and kind of Randy, are sitting at late hours talking about Jesus. We were obsessed with Jesus. We were obsessed with trying to preach a gospel we are still trying to understand.
When I spent time with them a few months ago to film final scenes for the movie about Brennan Manning that David is making, Tonya put me on the plane and said, “I just ask one thing. Please edify Jesus this week.”
She was wise to remind me of this. These are the college friends whose conversation can be crass and over the line (especially when Justin is involved), but the whole week I didn’t even have to replay Tonya’s request in my head as a reminder. These are men who desire to speak about Jesus and know Jesus.
Since college, we have all seen suffering, pain, and heartbreak. Sometimes, it is easy to speak of the overwhelming love of Jesus before you have known heart-crushing experiences far beyond a college break up. Still today, as we are in different parts of the country, one of the first places I know I can at least express those experiences is in a closed Facebook message feed called “COLOR GREEN GUYS”. I know that there are broken men there who will NOT tell me they are praying for me…unless they sure as hell are praying for me. There is no Christian pretense to wade through…no churchy language to sort out…but there is true love that stands without answers sometimes (most of the time). Those are the friends we all ought to have.